As Rio Tinto Alcan’s efforts to wrangle a new long-term power contract from Hydro Tasmania gather momentum, the company has hired a former Labor ministerial adviser, Jody Fassina, as its Tasmanian lobbyist.
In late October, former Labor ministerial adviser Jody Fassina registered his lobbying firm, Jody Fassina ATF JAI Family Trust with the Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet. The company, which trades under the more user-friendly name of JF Consulting, has Rio Tinto Alcan as its sole Tasmanian client.
Before becoming a lobbyist, Fassina worked as a senior policy adviser for Senator Nick Sherry between 1991 and 1997 and the late Senator Peter Cook between 1997 and 2001. After a decade as a political adviser, Fassina moved on to become the Public Affairs Manager for Macquarie Bank then with Profile Management Consultants.
While working for Profile in September 2009, Fassina was one of two consultants to address a “Premier’s Leadership dinner” for David Bartlett at the Commonwealth Club. That evening Bartlett was one of the presenters to discuss the rollout of the National Broadband Network with various business representatives. Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the Tasmanian government paid $3,413 “including expenses for presenters” Jody Fassina and Ian Knop from Profile, Ray & Berndston, the PR firm which had organised the dinner.
The month before David Bartlett and the federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, had appointed Fassina to the Board of Directors of the Tasmania NBN Co Limited. Not surprisingly, the announcement omitted any mention of Fassina’s role as a Labor Party adviser or corporate lobbyist and PR adviser. However, the NBN cites Fassina’s “in-depth understanding of Tasmanian government and community issues” as one of his attributes.
In a biographical profile, Fassina states that his firm, which he founded in February this year, provides “strategic counsel to both corporate and non-profit professional organisations who need high level advice on public policy issues of paramount importance to their organisation.”
While his client base as a lobbyist is thin in Tasmania he’s doing well on other fronts. His federal lobbying disclosure form indicatesthat he currently works for Macquarie Group, the drug company Novartis and the Moss Group.
When asked what Fassina’s role is with the company and why he had been hired, the Queensland-based Communication Manager for Rio Tinto Alcan, Diane Collier, was guarded. “Rio Tinto Alcan employs consultants to provide us with advice on many aspects of our business, including strategic advice on how we manage relationships with external stakeholders,” she wrote in an email.
Attempts to contact Fassina were unsuccessful. (Fassina’s mobile phone had a recorded message “the Vodafone you have called has incoming call restrictions activated. Please try again later”. Attempts to contact Fassina on three subsequent occasions were equally unsuccessful.)